Alan Pardew saluted skipper Fabricio Coloccini after seeing him return from injury to lead Newcastle to a precious Barclays Premier League victory over Aston Villa.
The 32-year-old Argentina international, who had missed seven games with a knee problem, played the full 90 minutes as the Magpies left it late to snatch a 1-0 victory, their first in five attempts.
Pardew said: "He wasn't really ready, if I am honest. We had a few balls down that channel where I think we were a bit uncomfortable bearing in mind that he has only trained for eight days or nine days.
"But we have worked really hard with him. I spoke to him all week and his presence was everything today.
"If he was going to be a little bit uncomfortable with some of their pace, we would have to accept that.
"But the result justifies the means because the clean sheet, he was a big part of.
"Just his calmness - we were very erratic with the ball today, very nervous, which I expected. But not him. He never gets himself into that mode."
If Coloccini was singled out for special praise, it was striker Loic Remy, back in the team after serving a three-match ban, who stole the headlines with a stoppage-time winner which helped to lift the mood at St James' Park, where his side had lost its previous five games.
The France international pivoted on a loose ball to smash it past keeper Brad Guzan four minutes after hitting the post with the goal at his mercy.
His strike prompted a knowing smile towards the press box from Pardew, who had been less than impressed with some of the recent coverage of his travails.
He said: "I thought the media had been a little bit miserable this week. Cheer up, let's move on."
Victory took the Magpies to 40 points with 11 games remaining, but left Villa just four points clear of the drop zone.
However, manager Paul Lambert, who dragged the club out of trouble last season, is not unduly concerned.
Lambert said: "It's not really changed my view from a few months ago. It still is what it is at the minute.
"The thing for us is, we are playing well, we are just not getting a break at the minute. If you are going into games where you are being beaten heavily and you don't look as if you are going to score, then that's the time to really worry.
"But I don't have that worry. There are a lot of teams well below us, and we went through this last year, so we know what it's like.
"We don't panic on it, we just try to win the next game."